Banning “Incendiary Speech and Rhetoric”: Boston University Faces New Free Speech Controversies and Calls for Selective Censorship

There was an interesting contrast this week in the attitude toward free speech values at Boston University with two controversies involving figures at opposing ends of the political spectrum. In one case, a professor defended looting and other crimes as forms of racial justice. In the other case, a speaker was hosted to speak about conservative values deemed anti-LGBTQ. One of the speakers was the subject of a student government resolution declaring him to be a danger to students and rejecting free speech rights for him to be heard by others on campus.  Can you guess which one?

The two controversies would seem to reaffirm the value of free speech across the political spectrum. While we can disagree with one or both of these speakers, we should be able to agree that a university is a place for a diversity of positions and viewpoints. That is not exactly how it is viewed by many on the Boston University campus.

Boston University’s Student Government Association (SGA) recently passed a resolution calling for various reforms after the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter hosted the Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles as a speaker. The students declared that Knowles is “openly transphobic and actively seeks to erode and endanger the LGBTQ+ community.” The resolution states that “differing political views can and should be tolerated but not when marginalized identities are harmed.”

The students further reject that “intentionally incendiary speech and rhetoric [is] compatible with the safety of the community.”

The resolution included statements that have become a common position among those seeking to censor opposing views. There is a perfunctory expression of support for free speech followed by the call to curtail the speech of those who hold dissenting or opposing views as threats to the safety of others: “We fully believe in freedom of speech and expression, however there is a line between free speech and hate speech that must be drawn.”

The resolution goes on to support a variety of demands, including “housing for transgender, gender nonconforming, and intersex (TGNCI) students” and a “LGBTQ+ resource center for students to provide visible and dedicated LGBTQ+ student support.” However, the thrust of the resolution is to condemn the school for allowing Knowles to speak and allow others to hear his views on campus.

At the same time, Professor Saida Grundy was making inflammatory comments from the far left. While Dr. Grundy is a member of the faculty and spoke through social media, there has not been similar objections raised about her history of “incendiary speech and rhetoric.”

On social media, Dr. Grundy appeared to justify violence without any statement of concern from the student government. Grundy is an assistant professor in BU’s Department of Sociology & Program in African American Studies and declared:

“If we’re going to talk about George Floyd and really understand, then we need to understand community reactions…We often hear politicians … [and] civic leaders from inside Black communities and from outside of them as well. [For example,] we heard President Biden say, ‘Well I understand your frustration, but don’t destroy property’…Well when you say that to Black people – who historically have been property – one of our greatest weapons was the looting of ourselves as property from the system of slavery. And what we see in communities is they are reacting to the very racism of what we call property.”

It is hardly a new position. After extensive rioting and looting a few years ago, various commentators defended such crimes as free speech.

We have previously discussed Grundy’s extreme views after a series of racist postings on social media. Even before starting her position at BU, Grundy caused a stir with racially insensitive remarks. In a series of tweets, she made statements that were denounced by many as racist and sexist, including “White masculinity isn’t a problem for america’s colleges, white masculinity is THE problem for america’s colleges.”

In another tweet, Grundy wrote: “Every MLK week I commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses. and every year i find it nearly impossible.” Previously, she posted comments like “Deal with your white sh*t, white people. slavery is a *YALL* thing.”  Grundy later apologized for the remarks but many asked if a white professor would have been retained after saying that the problem on colleges was black masculinity.

Boston University retained Grundy while stating that “… we are deeply saddened when anyone makes such offensive statements.” The university further stated that it “does not condone racism or bigotry in any form and we are deeply saddened when anyone makes such offensive statements.” Boston University president Robert Brown expressed “disappointment” with her statements and Grundy herself apologized for what she called “indelicate” wording.

Grundy continued to make controversial racial comments after she actually began work at BU. She later attacked a white woman and rape victim on Facebook, who expressed her personal feelings over an article criticizing actress Patricia Arquette for her call at the Oscars for equal pay for women. The criticism was laced with vehement attacks on white women.

There were also calls for Grundy’s termination after the disclosure of a criminal record linked to impersonating another woman in Michigan.

In these prior controversies, I supported Dr. Grundy. I wrote that I would have had great reservations about hiring her but that, as a current professor, she should be afforded the protection of free speech in making controversial and even racist comments. These controversies highlight a long-standing debate that we have had over the increasing trend toward firing people for their speech on social media and associations in their private lives.

I have defended faculty who have made an array of disturbing comments about “detonating white people,” denouncing policecalling for Republicans to suffer,  strangling police officerscelebrating the death of conservativescalling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements. I also supported the free speech rights of University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis, who defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence.

Yet, as shown by Dr. Grundy, liberal professors continue to enjoy the full protection of academic freedom and free speech. Indeed, at the University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.

The support enjoyed by faculty on the far left is in sharp contrast to the treatment given faculty with moderate, conservative or libertarian views. Anyone who raises such dissenting views is immediately set upon by a mob demanding their investigation or termination. This includes blocking academics from speaking on campuses like a recent Classics professor due to their political views. Conservatives and libertarians understand that they have no cushion or protection in any controversy, even if it involves a single, later deleted tweet.

One such campaign led to a truly tragic outcome with criminology professor Mike Adams at the University of North Carolina (Wilmington). Adams was a conservative faculty member with controversial writings who had to go to court to stop prior efforts to remove him. He then tweeted a condemnation of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper for his pandemic rules, tweeting that he had dined with six men at a six-seat table and “felt like a free man who was not living in the slave state of North Carolina” before adding: “Massa Cooper, let my people go.” It was a stupid and offensive tweet. However, we have seen extreme comments on the left — including calls to gas or kill or torture conservatives — be tolerated or even celebrated at universities.

Celebrities, faculty and students demanded that Adams be fired. After weeks of public pummeling, Adams relented and took a settlement to resign. He then killed himself a few days before his final day as a professor.

That brings us back to Boston University. The position of the student government is that this conservative speaker should have been banned as a threat to the safety of the campus. Yet, they have no objection to a professor who has defended looting and acts of violence as forms of racial justice.  The problem, again, is not the implied support for Dr. Grundy. It is the lack of support for those speakers and academics who hold opposing views. Under the approach of the student government, the speech of figures like Knowles can be banned as “intentionally incendiary speech and rhetoric” while the speech of figures like Grundy are tolerated or even celebrated.

It is an all-too-familiar contradiction not only among students but many faculty today. Faculty have rationalized their silence in the face of increasingly hostile environments for faculty and students holding dissenting views on our campuses. The anti-free speech sentiments expressed by this student government is the result of years of passivity and silence by faculty and administrators.

49 thoughts on “Banning “Incendiary Speech and Rhetoric”: Boston University Faces New Free Speech Controversies and Calls for Selective Censorship”

  1. If Boston University is private they can do what they want. If they receive any public monies I would expect those monies to immediately to stop as the University would not match the Constitution. If I was a parent funding my child going to the University I would tell them they would be looking for another place to go.

  2. Odd that blacks never mention that most pimps are black as are most sex traffickers.

  3. mike adams was a fighter and did not show signs if suicidal depression or mental illness. I will never believe it was suicide.

  4. Boston University has joined Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and Penn on my list of “do not interview, do not hire, do not promote, and fire at the first opportunity.” Such tarnished and worthless brands.

    1. Yo, bro – that is facile. I have a kid at BU and he is so far right he fell off the couch.

      1. RE:” I have a kid at BU and he is so far right he fell off the couch.” Have a grandson headed for USC in the fall. We shall see how his couch is fashioned in time.

  5. RE:”Boston University’s Student Government Association (SGA) recently passed a resolution calling for various reform…” Such is the cause of the current generation conditioned to helicopter parenting, play date planning, and ‘Mom’s Taxi’ to and from.. Such fear of being challenged to face the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. They will wonder what the hell they were thinking when the door knob hits them on exiting, as they toss aside their cloaks of liberalism decades from now.

  6. BOSTON!!!

    Who’d a thunk it? We may now know, without any doubt, that America has been betrayed, invaded and conquered.

    American freedom persisted for only 71 years, until 1860. The betrayal began in 1864 with the receipt by Abraham Lincoln of the letter of congratulation and commendation penned by Karl Marx – Lincoln had endeavored mightily toward Karl Marx’s “…RECONSTRUCTION of a social world…,” culminating in Lincoln’s successors’ illegal and unconstitutional “RECONSTRUCTION Amendments…,” which were improperly ratified through the liberal application of vicious military force and a gun to America’s head, in an environment of brutal post-war, military occupation (ratification of one amendment is virtually impossible, Lincoln’s successors rammed through three in no time at all).

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/iwma/documents/1864/lincoln-letter.htm
    _____________________________________________________________

    Boston Tea Party

    The Boston Tea Party was a political protest that occurred on December 16, 1773, at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. American colonists, frustrated and angry at Britain for imposing “taxation without representation,” dumped 342 chests of tea, imported by the British East India Company into the harbor. The event was the first major act of defiance to British rule over the colonists. It showed Great Britain that Americans wouldn’t take taxation and tyranny sitting down, and rallied American patriots across the 13 colonies to fight for independence.

    – History.com
    __________

    Now Boston University calls for the abrogation of the freedom of speech and the nullification of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    It may.

    Boston University is private property and only its owners may “claim and exercise” dominion – it may deny rights, censor and expel people from its private property.

    It is unfortunate, however, that the new denizens of the point of origin of America and human freedom have become direct and mortal enemies of the United States.

    Who’d a thunk it?
    ______________

    “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    – Declaration of Independence, 1776

  7. If you are still sending your kids to American universities and incurring debt, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a waste of money. If your kids are too incompetent to pursue a trade, maybe take a look at yourselves. I’m guessing you pay someone competent to do that stuff for you if you do it at all. We have always joked about fries and liberal arts majors. Guess a whole lot of idjits didn’t pay attention. Enjoy your debt, I am not paying for it.

  8. The totalitarian mind believes that a double standard is justified when applied to speech that they do not agree with. The left calls their opposition fascist while they are calling for the use of fascist tactics. It’s alright when the color of the swastika is the color blue.

  9. The double standard is needed, especially for college professors.

    Leftist College professors just don’t have the intellectual capacity to debate their position. (admittedly extremely difficult, when they are on the wrong side of all the facts)

  10. Progressives are stupid. They are not worth engaging, until they display an ability to form cogent arguments. They will simply try to ban you if you disagree with their orthodoxy.

  11. It’s continually the same thing, if any rational person hears both sides the left loses. They will continue to violate Americans right to free speech it’s all they have. Free speech is a dagger to their hearts. It’s always shut down the opposition by any means, intimidate, separate and ridicule.

    If the educators lost tenure, faced annual reviews they’d probably spend more time at their craft. The “educator” mentioned in this article sent out scouts on social media what to expect before her hire.

    Remember these students and faculty who suppress free speech are the same people who want all of us to pay for their education. Pickup the tab and by the way shut up.

    1. Should the student body vote on whether or not blacks can attend? Can the student body decide if gays should be housed separately? Should the student body determine if the faculty should be made up of men or women?

      Odd that a person with the name of Liberty would have such fascist tendencies.

      1. S/he is very honest in the handle – puts liberty second, behind political correctness.

    2. Not sure why students who are there to learn, should be given the power to decide rules that infringe upon other’s rights according to the Constitution. How about we just teach them that any time someone disagrees with another, the one who is being disagreed with will consider what you say to be “Hate speech” . No one likes to be disagreed with. We think we “know” best and to have someone not agree usually hurts feelings, creating anger. Out of the anger the person says that this is hateful UNLESS he has been taught that people disagree and it is no big deal.

      Some people swear Chocolate ice-cream is the best while others swear vanilla is the best. Or I see glass half full and you see it half empty. Both can be right and still disagree. People need to see that they don’t have to battle over disagreements. Let everyone speak and I feel certain people will learn from the listening.

    1. Only in a very few extreme cases, per the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court’s decisions. Which of the extremely limited exceptions do you believe is applicable in this instance?

    2. Can you please explain why you think there is a “right” to limit speech ?

    3. This is a person that says love is hate, peace is war and freedom is slavery. Apologies to George Orwell. Freedom of speech DOES NOT mean the right to limit speech. A man does not have a womb, a woman does not have a penis and men cannot give birth.

    4. It allows for law enforcement against disturbances of the peace, such as speech as incitement to riot, and civil litigation for damages.

    5. “Freedom of speech also provides the right”

      How does freedom of speech provide rights? Perhaps you wanted to say that there are limits to freedom of speech, but you are on a slippery slope toward despotism. Be careful you don’t slip and fall, ending up in a worse place.

  12. I know that we always say it but can anyone imagine a white professor saying that the problem is black masculinity and being retained as a professor?

    Can anyone imagine a white professor calling for the looting of businesses and then not being sanctioned?

    Can anyone imagine a white professor calling for a boycott of black businesses not being fired?

    Does anyone believe that a white professor who has been called out for racist remarks and then being discovered to have a criminal record not being let go under that pretext (at least)?

    Is anyone else getting tired of the double standard and the soft bigotry of low expectations?

    1. Academia has declared war on conservative America. It’s a class war and a race war. To pretend that “free speech” is anything other than one of the weapons in this war is naive.

      1. It’s worse than that – they’ve declared war on all but the most radical, life-denying, far-left ideas. They are alienating more than conservatives, and it will blow up on them at some point. At least, one hopes so.

    2. Speech, thought, opinions, choice, discrimination, bigotry and racism, real, imagined or weaponized, are not prohibited or precluded by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Fundamental law does not deny rights and freedoms of speech, thought and opinion to individuals. The Constitution does not guarantee attractiveness, acceptance, popularity or success to any individuals. Bodily injury and property damage may not be conflated with opinion and the ability to choose, analyze, discern, or discriminate. People must adapt to the outcomes of freedom. Freedom does not adapt to people, dictatorship does. The Israelite slaves were out of Egypt before the ink was dry on their release papers, but then, they had the gumption, capacity and acumen sufficient to the task.

      The entire communistic American welfare state is unconstitutional including, but not limited to, matriculation affirmative action, grade-inflation affirmative action, employment affirmative action, quotas, welfare, food stamps, minimum wage, rent control, social services, forced busing, public housing, utility subsidies, WIC, SNAP, TANF, HAMP, HARP, TARP, HHS, HUD, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Labor, Energy, Obamacare, Social Security, Social Security Disability, Social Security Supplemental Income, Medicare, Medicaid, “Fair Housing” laws, “Non-Discrimination” laws, etc.

      Article 1, Section 8, provides Congress the power to tax ONLY for “…general Welfare…,” omitting and, thereby, excluding any power to tax for individual welfare, specific welfare, particular welfare, favor or charity. The same article provides Congress the power to regulate ONLY money, the “flow” of commerce, and land and naval Forces. Additionally, the 5th Amendment right to private property is not qualified by the Constitution and is, therefore, absolute, allowing Congress no power to claim or exercise dominion over private property, the sole exception being the power to “take” private property for public use.

      Government exists, under the Constitution and Bill of Rights, to provide maximal freedom to individuals while it is severely limited and restricted to merely facilitating that maximal freedom of individuals through the provision of security and infrastructure.

      1. George, I don’t think there is anything in your response to create disagreement. I will have to dig deeper.

        People do not understand what the Constitution is and its necessity.

        The Constitutional Republic of America is a fluke of history. All the stars aligned simultaneously, almost a statistical impossibility, and now the left wishes to destroy it.

    1. You talking to me? That’s Jeff Silberman, bud.

      Everyone how Barr got noticed by Trump by writing that unsolicited memorandum supporting Trump? He was reportedly hired as AG.

      I wonder if Turley’s high profile appearances on Fox and his outspoken advocacy on behalf of Conservatives being shunned by liberal campuses is a not too subtle advertisement for his legal services? There is nothing unethical in so doing; that is one of the perks of being a Fox analyst. I hope that Turley would feel obliged to inform us whether he is currently representing Conservatives who are contesting their treatment from liberal administrators. If so, his one-sided advocacy in his clients’ favor could be his way of “working the refs”!

      My advice to conservative students at liberal colleges would be to object to liberal speakers as rigorously as liberal students object to conservative speakers. Discriminate against intolerable speech. As long as the government is not doing the discrimination, all’s fair in this culture war. No heckler’s veto however. Protest silently by walking out on the room or turning one’s back to the speaker while he or she speaks.

      1. Everyone who thinks that Jeff should stop making every issue about Trump please hit like.

        Everyone who wishes that Jeff would not involve Fox News in every single issue that Turley raises please hit like.

        Everyone who thinks Jeff has a mental problem please hit like.

        1. hull some of us are tired of it, but as long as the 50.5% of free stuff voters continue to elect these Dem Socialists into office, you will have to continued to bear it. Mean while the Constitutional Republic is turned dystopian.

        2. “Everyone who thinks Jeff has a mental problem please hit like.”

          11 to date. That is a pretty big number for a blog like this. Now the question is how many of the physicians think Jeff has mental problems?

      2. I wonder if Turley’s high profile appearances on Fox and his outspoken advocacy on behalf of Conservatives being shunned by liberal campuses

        If you don’t want to be called out as a retard, stop with retarded reasoning.

        It has been pointed out repeatedly, so you have seen the posts, and seen the explanation, and reasoning.

        Professor Turely does not advocate on the behalf of Conservatives. He is a shameless advocate of the Constitution of the United States.

        But tomorrow you will prove what a retard you are by making the same mistake. Because, the inability to learn simple stuff, is what defines a retard, like you.

      3. “My advice to conservative students at liberal colleges would be to object to liberal speakers as rigorously as liberal students object to conservative speakers.”

        Jeff, why would anyone want to do that? People go to college to learn how to think and discover what exists in the world. Who would want to graduate ignorant? That is what you are promoting.

        Thank you for letting us know the cause behind your shallowness.

  13. REGARDLESS OF YOUR OPINION, YOU HAVE AN OBLIGATION, IF YOU “CHOOSE TO LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES” TO ABIDE BY ITS CONSTITUTION AS INTERPRETED BY CURRENT POLITICIANS WHETHER YOU AGREE OR NOT. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE STRONGLY ENOUGH YOU CAN ATTEMPT TO LIVE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY THAT YOU THINK IS MORE ATTUNED TO YOUR WAY OF THINKING.
    FORETUNATELY, IN MY OPINION, THE VAST MAJORITY OF CITIZENS OF THIS COUNTRY STILL BELIEVE THE WAY I DO.

    1. Anthony, this advocation is one of the primary difficulties of today and contributes greatly to Constitutional problems today. You advocate “To abide by its Constitution as interpreted by current politicians today, whether you agree or not”?. Wrong. That intrpretation belongs to the USSSC, and when a decision is one that the Dem Socialists don’t like, then the Dem Politicans want to Stack The Court.

  14. “If we’re going to talk about George Floyd and really understand, then we need to understand community reactions…We often hear politicians … [and] civic leaders from inside Black communities and from outside of them as well. [For example,] we heard President Biden say, ‘Well I understand your frustration, but don’t destroy property’…Well when you say that to Black people – who historically have been property – one of our greatest weapons was the looting of ourselves as property from the system of slavery. And what we see in communities is they are reacting to the very racism of what we call property.”
    *******************************
    “Looting ourselves ….” All of it as good an example of non-sequitur sophistry as I’ve seen. Robert Lewis Stevenson-worthy. ″’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less. ‘ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things. ‘” You’re right, Alice, you can’t.

    Shut ’em all down. The ivy towers are populated by loons – dangerous loons.

    1. I have used that Lewis Carroll (not Mr. Stevenson’s) quote many, many times in comments over the past severa years. The most telling line, though, is Hutpy Dumpty’s reply to Alice’s note of “the question,” which you’ve omitted:

      “The question is, which is to be master—that’s all.”

        1. It’s early. But you get points with me for using even part of that quote, even misattributed.

    2. AGAIN I SAY THAT, IN MY OPINION, IF YOU THINK, AS I DO, THAT MR FLOYD SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT THE VERY LEAST, IMPRISONED FOR HIS MISDEEDS PRIOR TO HIS DEATH, THEN HIS DEATH, WHILE UNFORTUNATE, WAS NOT A TRAMATIC EVENT BUT ONE OF MANY THAT SHOULD HAVE NOT BEEN CONSIDERED WORTHY OF VIOLENCE AND HATE. HE, REGARDLESS OF HIS RACE, BROKE EXISTING LAWS AND, LIKE MANY OTHER MEN AND WOMEN, SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCARCERATED APPROPRIATELY FOR HIS CRIMES.

      1. floyd was used by the democrats to guard the door to the strip club that served as their counterfeiting operation. Chauvin worked security for it. The FBI was investigating, and all evidence was stored a block from the club at the police station. Tragically, all evidence if the counterfeit operation was destroyed in the fires that also destroyed the club. Floyd was arrested for passing a counterfeit twenty. the whole riot was a cover for destruction of evidence. Or, just a coincidence…

Leave a Reply to jeffsilberman Cancel reply